HarSMedia

reci[-di?-]va --
or: "who's the bloke that keeps the list ?"

february 06, 2006.

Internet radio.
Wifi radio.

The idea is pretty obvious, really.

...

Raudio [ raudio.nl ] is one among thousands of streaming audio stations that are currently active. Many of these simply are an 'internet mirror' of FM/AM emissions; which are usually viewed as being the 'original'. [If one considers the 'fidelity' of the signal - the 'sound quality' - this is a just claim ... obviously the 'fidelity' of a mid-quality mp3 encoding will be mostly inferior to FM emission of the 'not encoded' recordings.] Others - like Raudio - use the streaming format to do some of the things that in the setting of 'traditional radio' were, or turned out to be - sometimes for good reasons, economical and/or practical - undo-able. For, what station other than a low-cost non-profit streaming audio station like Raudio, can afford to bring its listeners a 24 hour piece like Leif Inge's '9 Beet Stretch', unabridged, uninterrupted, un-commented, every day of every week of every month of the year ... ? A web stream may just be ... out there ... sounding ... continuously ... maybe at times indeed not unlike that infamous tree falling in a wood ... with no one around to hear it, I mean ... Encoded as a web stream, the tree may just fall and fall and fall and fall, again and again and again and again ... for whenever whoever that cares to tune in and listen.

The traditional radio format - not in the least because of the politics and top-down control of (the distribution of) its resources - imposes a 'sequential programming'. raudio reciva Part of the ongoing 'broadcast revolution' brought about by the web radio/video-streaming format, is the possibility of a sheer limitless 'parallel programming' ... where each of a multitude of different 'programs' out there is playing continuously, 24/7, without beginning, and without end.

Another main facet of this revolution is, of course, any a such station and/or program's potentially boundless reach ... I am myself a regular listener to the on-line mirror of some of the fine programs of the London Musicians' Collective's ResonanceFM ... and it is thanks to WDBX's on-line mirror that during many a saturday morning's breakfast I may tune in to DaveX's great "It's Too Damn Early" show (in its 'classical' air-format to be enjoyed only in Southern Illinois, and therefore definitely a no-no here in Paris or Amsterdam) ... it was thanks to an on-line mirror that I could listen to myself and tapes I found in Maastricht on the limburgian radio L1, while already being back in Amsterdam ... et cetera enzovoorts ..

These are just some examples and I am sure that many of you will have your own. All of these are programs in the traditional radio format, that I was only able to listen to because of their being mirrored on the internet; and hence having a truly global reach ...

Whether presented in a traditional way, or n'importe comment, whether the sounds broadcast come from within the costly studios of a government funded national broadcasting corporation, or reside on the hard drive of a smart McJoe's old PC in a shabby barn somewhere in the Mojave desert ... all it takes to get them out here is some (free!) software and a broadband gateway to the internet ... [Like for any type of web publishing, though, let's not forget that the fact that any-one may access your content, hardly implies that any-one actually will] ... And it is all it takes to tune in as well: a broadband gateway to the internet. And a computer ...

Now here's the simple and obvious idea I mentioned at the beginning: isolate the software components your computer uses to connect to the internet and tune in to a web stream; then wire these components onto dedicated hardware, put all of it in a separate little box, add a small amplifier and a couple of loud speakers and ... ladies, gentlemen! ... so let me introduce to you :... Digital Internet Radio ... !

reciva Have a look at the picture to your left. So what do you say ...? Doesn't it look like ... it feels like ... my god! ... it is ... a ... radio ...?!

This particular machine is one in a batch (of a couple of hundred(?)) produced last year by the VPRO, most daring and 'adventurous' among the dutch national broadcasting organizations, in cooperation with technology developer Reciva. Partly meant to celebrate and mark ten years of VPRO-presence on the web, it was offered for a very reasonable price to the organization's members, sometime early last year. An offer that almost immediately had to be recalled, as the official Dutch 'media watch dog', the Commissariaat voor de Media ("upholds the rules which are formulated in the Dutch Media Act as well as in the regulations based on this act"), forbid the VPRO to sell their Reciva. "A public broadcasting organization should broadcast, and not sell equipment," appears to have been the CVDM's motivation (as it was formulated in an e-mail, dated january 11th 2006, by Erwin Blom, head of the VPRO's 'Digital Department'). Fair enough. But why then does this feel so much like a pretty childish act of intentionally messing with what's just a fun thing to do for one's birthday? And, also, then what about the sale and promotion of books, CD's, DVD's and other 'media' that the dutch public broadcasters continue to be involved in on what seems to me a pretty big scale? ... Anyway ... Who cares ... I'm not really interested in getting or reviving some sort of a stale 'media polemics' here. Hell! Haven't we got other, better things to do ? ... Trying out the VPRO's Reciva, for instance ... Which, btw, is far from unique, as there are ever more of such 'machines', based upon Reciva's or similar technology, being developed and made commercially available. Raudio though was lucky enough to be able to get hold of one from the batch made by and for the VPRO last year.

Here's how it, basically, works: you switch the thing on, the machine looks for, and connects to, a suitable wifi internet connection, and then starts streaming your 'favorite' station (the one you had playing when you last turned it off).
It's as easy as that.

And I must say I loved it.

Even though not having a wifi connection at my Amsterdam hide out myself, the Raudio Reciva faultlessly hit upon the network of one of my neighbors, connected, and started streaming ... repeating over and over again a dutch news broadcast dating back a couple of days ... biggrin ... I next tried some of the (modifiable) presets, but soon (without any sort of a manual) found the main selection menu, and in a couple of turns I had ResonanceFM blasting from the small speakers ...
Amazing ... And it did feel good not having to start up the full power of my computer's operating system just in order to listen to a bit of web radio.
Somehow all of it did seem to make ... some ... sense.
"The experience just is completely ... different ... from that of streaming sound on your computer,"
a dutch blogger wrote about listening to his Reciva.
I think he has a point.

But on the other hand: the flipside of the convenience of having 'isolated' just one among the many of the web's functionalities is : 'control' ... For where does the (gigantic, so much be granted) list of streaming stations accessible with this Reciva reside? Is it somehow 'hard wired' into the machine's circuits ...? Given the volatility of most web addresses that would not be a feasible thing to do right now ... also, (this may be different for other brands of wifi radio, but) the Reciva does not have any possibility whatsoever for you to add or change a streaming station's address yourself. So, no, hard wired it is not ... But then, who keeps them all in mind? Where's the bloke that keeps the list?

What the machine actually does, is connect to the list of stations that is kept by Reciva. And only these stations it can access and play back ...

On the Reciva website there is a form that allows you to submit 'new' stations, eventually to be added to the list ... For now (emerging technology, hein?) this is free, and it works just fine ... We had Raudio's main stream and the 9 Beet Stretch Special playing on our 'digital internet radio' in no time (filed under 'experimental') ...

But what if - at some point in time - millions of households have one of these gadgets? (Remember the french Minitel system? Someone might have the brilliant idea to give all of us one at no initial charge ...) Would inclusion on the list still be free? And what watch dogs will there be watching the list, and for what reasons? ... I don't think there's much need to expand on the 'dangerously attractive powers' the keeping of such a list might unleash ...

The Reciva without the shadow of a doubt is a fun gadget ... low-profile and rare as it now (still ?) is. But what if it became 'big'? Might not somehow 'someone' decide that there's no longer any need to have streaming sound passed on through 'other channels'? ... or ... or, ... and ...

...

...

Also, in the same dutch blog entry that I mentioned before - by Stephan Fellinger, an 'interactive marketing advisor' - it is casually written, but with unvarnished enthousiasm, that each of the Reciva's comes with its own, unique, code. Which in principle should make it possible to target messages to specific machines and users ...
Yeah ...
That made me wonder ... about some tomorrow, when I wake up, head for coffee ... and in passing switch on my Reciva ... boy, what will my message be?

[ Next related SB-entry: i-tag-u | u-tag-me ]

tags: Reciva, internet radio

# .185.

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